Thursday, July 31, 2008

Jonah 4:2

And he prayed unto the Lord, and, I pray thee, O Lord, was not this my saying, when I was yet in my country? Therefore I fled before unto Tarshish: for I knew that thou art a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repentest thee of the evil. (KJV)

So he complained to the Lord about it: “Didn’t I say before I left home that you would do this, Lord? That is why I ran away to Tarshish? I knew that you were a gracious and compassionate God, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. I knew how easily you could cancel your plans for destroying these people. (NLT)

Have you ever said or thought, “Boy, it serves him right! He’s just getting what he deserves!” It’s tempting to say that of someone who has committed some terrible crime or atrocity. It might be easy to say that of someone who cuts you off in traffic and is later involved in an accident or is seen getting a traffic ticket. It might even occur to us if we see an unruly child being punished. It is certainly the way Jonah thought about God’s threatened punishment for the city of Nineveh found in our verse for this week.

Jonah was sent to tell the evil city of Nineveh that they must repent of their evil ways and turn to God or God would destroy their city. Jonah didn’t want to go, so he ran in the opposite direction to the city of Tarshish. Jonah ended up in the belly of a great fish because he had tried to run from God. But when Jonah repented and decided to do things God’s way, God was merciful to him and gave him a second chance. Jonah went to Nineveh, delivered the message and then sat a safe distance from the city to watch God destroy the Ninevites and their city.

When the people of Nineveh repented as a result of Jonah’s message, God forgave them and gave them a second chance, as he had given Jonah. The city was spared, but Jonah wasn’t happy. He thought the city should have been destroyed as God had said it would. But God was merciful once again. Jonah knew that God was a gracious and merciful God; that he was slow to anger and filled with unfailing love. Jonah wanted God’s forgiveness and kindness for himself, but not for the Ninevites.

How often do we consider ourselves better or more deserving of God’s kindness than we feel that others deserve? It’s good that God is no respecter of persons. He loves all of us and doesn’t want any of us to perish. We often cry or become upset over little things – like a broken heirloom or losing money in a business deal. But do we cry or become upset over someone who is lost and not on the path to Heaven? Or, because they have done something evil, do we desire for them to get what they deserve? What if God gave each of us what we truly deserve? I’m afraid Heaven would be a very empty place. Praise God for the gift of His Son that we might have eternal life in Heaven and not get what we truly deserve!

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